Raising the bottom for beloved addicts and alcoholics

When you hear the expression “hitting bottom,” think of an elevator that discharges people in a dark, scary basement. For those with substance use disorder, that basement can be death. Then think about how the addict/alcoholic has a choice to get off the elevator well before it hits the bottom or the basement.

  • They can get off before they lose their job.
  • They can get off before they lose their marriage.
  • They can get off before they lose their health.
  • They can get off before they lose their life.

So when we talk about “raising the bottom,” we are talking about how to support their exit from chemical dependency before they reach the bottom. How can you “raise the bottom” for your beloved addict or alcohlic? The “Open Letter from an Alcoholic” offers great guidance and you can read it here:

Open Letter from the Alcoholic

I am an alcoholic. I need your help.

Don’t lecture, blame or scold me. You wouldn’t be angry with me for having cancer or diabetes. Alcoholism is a disease, too.

Don’t pour out my liquor; it’s just a waste because I can always find ways of getting more.

Don’t let me provoke your anger. If you attack me verbally or physically, you will only confirm my bad opinion abut myself. I hate myself enough already.

Don’t let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. If you assume my responsibilities, you make my failure to assume them permanent. My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.

Don’t accept my promises. I’ll promise anything to get off the hook. But the nature of my illness prevents me from keeping my promises, even though I mean them at the time.

Don’t make empty threats. Once you have made a decision, stick to it.

Don’t believe everything I tell you; it may be a lie. Denial of reality is a symptom of my illness. Moreover, I’m likely to lose respect for those I can fool too easily.

Don’t let me take advantage of you or exploit you in any way. Love cannot exist for long without the dimension of justice.

Don’t cover up for me or try in any way to spare me the consequences of my drinking. Don’t lie for me, pay my bills, or meet my obligations. It may avert or reduce the very crisis that would prompt me to seek help. I can continue to deny that I have a drinking problem as long as you provide an automatic escape for the consequences of my drinking.

Above all, do learn all you can about alcoholism and your role in relation to me. Go to open AA meetings when you can. Attend Al-Anon meetings regularly, read the literature and keep in touch with Al-Anon members. They’re the people who can help you see the whole situation clearly.

I love you.

Your Alcoholic

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Ask the Expert: What are the odds of relapse?

Difficulty saying yes or noMy 16 year old daughter has just completed a Juvenile Drug Court program and has been clean and sober for almost 6 months. We have completed an intense program of family groups, one-on-one therapy and weekly teen support group meetings. What are the odds of her relapsing? – Concerned Mom

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL:

While relapse is often times a part of recovery it is not ALWAYS a part of it. Research tells us that one year is the “optimal dose” of treatment so continue with her individual therapy and support groups. If, indeed, there is a relapse I think the best thing is to remain calm and remember it doesn’t mean she is going to go back to that lifestyle permanently. She needs to be held accountable for her poor decision but more importantly she will need to process what happened with her counselor in order to make sure she has all the tools she needs to stay sober. – Christy Crandell, Administrative Director and Founder of Full Circle Treatment Center.

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND:

Relapse is a complicated issue based on numerous factors. Both you and your daughter need to make recovery your first priority.  For you, that means getting the support you need to stay healthy and to have a healthy relationship with your daughter. Going to a Parents Al-Anon meeting, working with a counselor, or attending open AA meetings with your daughter would all be healthy and constructive.

Yes, relapse statistics are high. At the same time,  I encourage my families to not get caught up in the numbers because they can only cause you to stress and lose focus on your program. It sounds like you are doing all the right things.  Keep up the good work, and concentrate only on your individual recovery programs. I wish you all well and I know you can all stay healthy if you both keep the focus on recovery.

Blessings, Ricki Townsend, Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1

Ask the Expert: What alternatives do I have to kicking my son out when he relapses?

YOUR QUESTION: My 22 yr. old son lives with us and has been addicted to opiates for the past 2-3 yrs. Since early HS was chronic pot smoker, drinker and did other numerous drugs. He has been to 30 day rehab 2 times. Has relapsed several times and was using suboxone too. He is or was participating in an IOP support group locally. Soon he will have acourt appearance for possession of heroin…has a long record of traffic violations, pot possession and 2 DUIs. Last night we found evidence that he is once again using and possibly selling. He has been sleeping most of day, up all night, and barely working in family office to pay off fines, not grooming, eating little….yet has been very pleasant and loving. I put a suitcase on the front porch as he stayed out all night. He had been using the drugs in our home and obviously that is unacceptable. Yesterday before we confronted him, he expressed to me that he thought his life was a “hell hole”. He doesn’t want to do this but it really has a hold on him. Should we go ahead with “kicking him out” or try to discuss parameters for him living here and continuing with his recovery? Thanks so much!

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL:”While it may appear harsh to kick him out, it is really the most loving thing you can do for him as it may help him get to the point where he is ready to check back into a treatment program. The latest research tells us that one year is the optimal dose of treatment. While your son has been able to get clean in the 30 days of rehab, he needs to continue in an ongoing program for much longer. A transitional living home would be best for him so he can focus on his recovery. Please find support for yourself in a local Al Anon meeting to help you stay strong and healthy during this difficult journey with your son.”

EXPERT BRAD DEHAVEN: Your son has all of the classic signs and symptoms of Opiate drug abuse as you now know all too well. Ask yourself if everything you are doing for him is too much and not enough at the same time. I think I know the answer will be “yes”. Addiction doesn’t get better without professional help and just like other diseases, sometimes it doesn’t get better with help. You hit your bottom long ago and in my opinion, it is time for the addict to hit their bottom. I don’t believe it is fair to treat any disease with a specified period of time for treatment. All addicts are different just like all people who have cancer. Imagine how outraged you would be to discover that your insurance only covers 30 days treatment for cancer. I have spoken to hundreds of addicts and most told me that 30 day treatment centers were just a temporary fix to a permanent problem. Most addicts see 15 days left in a 30 day treatment and know that is how much longer they need to wait to abuse drugs again. Based on hundreds of interviews of families and addicts who are afflicted by addiction, I find that those who send their addict away to a long term treatment program which is over when it is over get much better results on recovery. I also see that those who send them away for treatment and let them grow up surrounded by people with the goal of sobriety do much better. We parents are ill prepared to treat addiction at home and we are fooling ourselves if we think this will work. Your son has learned over his whole life how to manipulate you and now that he is an addict and a liar out of necessity, you are not equipped to curtail his drug abuse. Hand your addict to a professional, step away as mom & dad and allow someone trained in the field to attempt to recover your son. My second book “The Addict Among Us” has many suggestions on how to live with and treat addiction and this information was shared with me by these families. I hope you get the help you need because as you know all too well, addiction doesn’t get better over time, no disease does. All the best, Brad

Batten down the hatches: 420 is just around the corner

dealing with teen substance abuseI say “April 20.”  Kids say “420.”  And Jon Daily, Founder of Recovery Happens, says that say April 20 is a problem. “April 20 means a time to get high,” Daily said. “For chemically dependent kids, 420 happens every day. Parents and teachers have been in the dark. Kids aren’t going to go to school that day. They’re going to go get high.”

Seeking housing for my son on Craig’s List was a parent’s worst nightmare when “420-friendly” showed up on many of the listings. He was in early recovery.  How was he supposed to pursue a life of sobriety when his roommates were smoking pot? That brings up a larger issue:  how can we tell our kids that pot is bad when in fact it is legal in a growing number of states?

Marijuana is different today than when most parents gave it a whirl in the 70s or 80s.  Drugfree.org reports that “Marijuana increases the risk of chronic cough, bronchitis, increases risk of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals. May increase risk of anxiety, depression and a series of attitude and personality changes, known as “amotivational syndrome.” This syndrome is characterized by a diminished ability to carry out long-term plans, a sense of apathy, decreased attention to appearance and behavior, and decreased ability to concentrate for long periods of time. These changes can also include poor performance in school. Marijuana, just like any other drug, can lead to addiction. It affects the brain’s reward system in the same way as all other drugs of addiction – and the likelihood of addiction increases considerably for those who start young.”

Knowledge is power – seize it.  If you child says, “It’s just pot,” well, you know different. Be vigilant about April 20 and every day.

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Time to claim victory over addiction? Not so fast…

It is such an interesting time when certain recovery milestones begin to occur.  In the early days of my daughter’s recovery, I would put on such a celebration at the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 90 day chip, the.…Well, you get the picture.  I would put such fanfare on these early recoveries because I wanted all the hope that came with it – you would have thought I was the one getting the chip.  It is easy to look back on this and, while I think it’s great to celebrate the milestones of recovery, we also need to keep it in perspective.  Nevertheless, as the years accumulate in her recovery I’m not sure I would be any less proud if she’d just gotten her college diploma!  It’s been a long journey, and it did not come easily.

Is it time to claim victory over addiction?  I hardly think so, but it is time to celebrate and sit back and relish the healing and recovery.  She has become responsible: performing well in her job, paying her bills, making good choices.  These are all wonderful things to celebrate.  Yet I know how illusive addiction can be – it’s like cancer, it’s in remission, healing has taken place and a clean bill of health is declared.  Yet, it can reoccur when unmanaged, turning life upside down in a moment.  I do not dwell on this possibility, for today I will rejoice in my daughter’s recovery and the healing that has taken place in our family.

Treatment for addiction or alcoholism? Things to consider

5820 Chestnut Ave Orangevale-small-003-21-003-666x444-72dpiWhat do  you look for in a rehab?  One treatment center we like is Clean & Sober Recovery Services, a co-ed cognitive behavioral residential residential treatment center near Sacramento, California.  Clean & Sober Recovery Service’s recovery model is based on the “bio psycho social” system of care.  “The biological element is the physical healing of brain and body through detox and nutrition,“  explains co-owner John Perry.  “The psychological element focuses on understanding the self—what drives one to use and abuse. The social element of recovery involves developing the skills to maintain sobriety while returning to the outside world.”

Residents of the treatment center attend 12-step meetings in the local community, which means they have a broad base of sober support after graduation.

Clean & Sober Recovery Services offers more than 40 hours per week of one-on-one and group counseling with certified drug and alcohol counselors, education and structured activities. Residents wake up at 7 AM for morning meditation, followed by exercise, proper hygiene and housekeeping responsibilities like making their beds and keeping the home tidy.  “These are important life skills that can be lost along the way,” explains co-owner Chris Wright.  

A focus on recovery for the family is essential.  Chris explains, “The family often thinks, ‘If my loved one just quits drinking, we will all be fine.’ But the entire family needs help with the disease of addiction.  If we don’t give the family tools and guidance about how to act and react, we are sending the addict/alcoholic back into an environment that doesn’t support recovery. Family support is an important part of our solution.  We start the communication to repair the family unit. We help families develop a family contract to prepare everyone for reunification.  Our family groups meet twice a week, offering education and support. And families can take advantage of 12 weeks of free aftercare after their loved ones ‘graduate’ from the program.”

Clean & Sober Recovery Services is a co-ed facility that can serve up to 8 women and 16 men ages 18 and up. The facility is staffed 24 by 7.  Clients sign a contract at intake stating that they will not pursue relationships in rehab. As John explains, “If we are looking to remove drugs and alcohol from our lives, we cannot replace that with another person. Focusing on the immediate gratification of a relationship distracts clients from working on their chemical dependency issues.  At the same time, life is co-ed, and we need to learn to get back into the mainstream of life. And since addicts and alcoholics tend to become reclusive, having a co-ed facility helps people reintegrate back into society.”

Clean and Sober Recovery Service’s  program includes 12 weeks of aftercare for both client and family, and they accept insurance. Prospective clients and their families are always welcome to tour the facility. Call co-owners John Perry and Chris Wright at 916 990-0190.